Maccheroni Rigati with Sweet Pepper Sauce

Since beginning my little pasta series, Pasta della Settimana, readers have asked me all sorts of pasta questions. Is pasta fresca (fresh) better than pasta secca, (dried)? How do I choose a good dried pasta without paying a fortune? And the answer always comes down to the same thing: taste a variety of pasta brands and discover the difference between good and bad pasta. Commercial ‘fresh pasta’ sold in plastic packets in supermarkets is stodgy, far too thick and is inedible, despite the alluring sounding stuffings. It tastes just like the wrapping it comes in. If you want good fresh pasta, either make a batch yourself or find a reliable source of fresh pasta that is not too thick and floury. A good quality dried pasta beats a badly made industrial fresh one any day. Look for dried pasta that has a rougher surface and has been manufactured using bronze dies, or ‘Trafilatura al Bronzo’, meaning it has been extracted through bronze and not teflon dies, the latter more commonly used. A good pasta should hold its shape when cooked, the cooking water should not become overly cloudy and it should be firm and not floury to taste.

The other key thing about pasta is to choose a shape that marries your sauce. Short pasta with ridged lines (rigati) are good to hold creamy sauces. Look for this word on the packets (lisce means smooth, the opposite of rigati). Other golden rules include:

  • Never overcook pasta
  • Never over drain pasta, unless you are saucing with a thin brothy sauce or seafood. Pasta needs to be moist to marry well with the sauce.
  • Never over sauce pasta.
  • Use fresh, seasonal ingredients.
  • Find the best quality ingredients, including pasta, parmesan and EV olive oil that is fresh. When it comes to olive oil, check the use by date and choose one closest to the oil’s date of harvest and crush, which should be mentioned on the tin or bottle. In Victoria, Australia, Cobram oil is released in May each year so it’s easy to check the freshness annually. Many European oils often end up in famous delis with close to rancidity dates. Buyer beware.

    Tiny pasta shapes with fabulous names used especially in broths and thin soups.

In late Autumn, red peppers – bell peppers, pepperoni or capsicums- depending on where you come from, are at their peak and can be purchased in markets rather cheaply. They are far more suited to a sub- tropical climate: this is one vegetable that I prefer to buy than waste 5 months waiting for one two to ripen in my own orto.

Sweet and creamy, roasted pepperoni sauce with Maccheroni rigati ( Molisana brand)

The following recipe is a luscious creamy sauce which makes a great accompaniment to grilled fish as well as a pasta sauce. It keeps well, covered with a film of olive oil, for two weeks in the fridge.

Roasted Red Pepper sauce with Maccheroni Rigatiadapted from a recipe by Ursula Ferrigno, see below.)

This makes enough pasta sauce for 4 serves or a 225 g jar.

  • 4 large red peppers ( capsicum, bell pepper, pepperoni)
  • 65 g ground almonds or almond meal
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 Tablespoons EV olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 50 g freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Padano
  • sea salt, black pepper to taste
  • pasta to serve, around 80 -100g per person
  • fresh basil leaves to serve.
  1. Preheat oven to 200c. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for 25 minutes. turning once during cooking. They should become charred and deflated. Remove and place them in a plastic or paper bag to cool.
  2. When the peppers are cool, peel off the skin and remove all the seeds. Try to save the pepper juice by holding them over a bowl.
  3. Put the pepper flesh and all the other ingredients into a food processor and whizz until blended, smooth and thick. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Cook your chosen pasta, such as rigatoni, penne rigate or maccheroni rigati. Reheat the sauce gently in a wide and and deep frying pan then add the cooked pasta to the sauce, tossing well to completely cover.
  5. Serve hot with torn basil leaves.

    Sides- a good bitter leaf salad and sourdough bread, Panmarino.


Pasta Classica 125. Julia Della Croce, 1987

Pizza, Pasta and Polenta, Great Italian Vegetarian Recipes. Ursula Ferrigno, 1995





30 thoughts on “Maccheroni Rigati with Sweet Pepper Sauce”

  1. Wonderful article .., Francesca … covered many areas of interest ..
    Didn’t know about Bronze versus Teflon but I could ‘ taste ‘ the difference as I read your article
    I adore Pasta and try to make my own occasionally or buy a dry one that speaks Quality ..
    I grow my own Tomatoes and since discovering the tasty almost seedless pulpy San Manzano I use them when still available ..
    Lovely to read something so refreshing and do-able
    Take care and Happy Pasta making


    Liked by 2 people

  2. One of my favourite brands is Molisana for dried, they also have a fantastic variety of shapes, I stock up on it on my trips to the Italian deli. I’m also using San Marzano tomatoes when I can find them (although they are quite a bit pricier) – noticeable taste difference. La famiglia always asks “what did you do to the sauce, it’s so good”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Molisana is good and I also like De Cecco. Ah San Marzano- delicious. I’m still getting fresh tomatoes from the orto, such an amazing season here.


    1. I know, lots really, despite my warning about oversaucing. I love this sauce so much. Yes, radichio is my fave too – and grows wild in my garden. Free for the taking from April through to September.


  3. Brilliant post! Perhaps I need another trip to Sydney Rd to stock up on alternatives to our cellophane, home brand choices! Bread looks good 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, you can get some good varieties at Psarakos in Bundoora and Thornbury. Some of the pasta shapes made by Molisana are good- a brand not stocked by the Mediterranean Wholesalers. De Cecco holds its shape very well and is great for when you want that al dente texture to shine. Some of the more expensive artigianale brands are not necessarily any better. When I do a pasta shop, I buy for 6 months- lots of shapes and tastes to make the drive worthwhile.


  4. Although your student -me- is sometimes slow in applying the knowledge you bestow, I retain it… like short pasta with ridged lines does sauce. And when the time is right I somehow find myself with your words in my head, not always replicating recipes but looking at pasta, oil, sauces, ingredients in a new & informed way. However, I do believe it won’t be long before I conjure up a magic roasted red pepper sauce. Yuuuuuum.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Dale. That’s a really heart warming thing to say. Last night we had this sauce with grilled fish- it went very nicely. This is a great time for peppers. Down here they are in prolific( though not in those two big stupormarkets). I am on the hunt for more pepper recipes.


  5. bit slow getting to this delicious bowl of pasta but I love the sound of this sauce so will give it a whirl while the peppers are still cheap and plentiful. I’m stuck with GF pasta but I have to say that Garofalo is the best I’ve found if anyone is interested

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You could put some crumbles goats cheese on top, why not. Now missy, can’t believe you have your own liquid gold. How amazing is that!! My olives from about 5 straggly trees were all knocked off by cockies.

      Liked by 1 person

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